UMW comeback kids fall just short at EOU in triple OT

By: 
M.p. Regan
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Special foot

Montana Western punter/kicker Mark Kharchenko earned Frontier Conference “Special Teams Player of the Week,” in two of the first three weeks of the season, but felt the sting of a field goal block in triple overtime at Eastern Oregon on Saturday. The block ended Western’s hopes of opening the season at 4-0. Kharchenko is shown booting in a win over Rocky. J.P. Plutt photo

“That was crazy, man,” said University of Montana Western Head Coach Ryan Nourse of his Bulldogs’ 54-51 loss at Eastern Oregon University on Saturday.

“That was a really wild football game,” added Nourse of a game that somehow managed to keep getting wilder and crazier the longer it went on.

It ended in appropriately unlikely and elongated fashion in the third overtime.

Elevating just behind his defensive line, EOU’s Zach Lacey rose high enough to get a big enough piece of a 35-yard field goal attempt by UMW’s Mark Kharchenko—who’d nailed all three of his previous field goal efforts in the game, and all seven of his FG attempts this season—to keep the ball from getting over the crossbar to tie the game and send it to yet another overtime.

The loss in the three OT circus full of acrobatic plays and freakish momentum shifts dropped the Dawgs (3-1) from the ranks of the undefeated, but only two spots in the NAIA national rankings, to no. 24, while evening the Mountaineers season mark at 2-2.

A 39-yard field goal by EOU’s Nathan Harden in the third overtime proved the difference, after the teams exchanged TDs in the second overtime and FGs in the first.

Western appeared to have Saturday’s game won in that first overtime, when the Dawgs held EOU to a field goal and then scored a touchdown on a 28-yard pass from QB Jon Jund to WR Walker McKitrick.

And then the Dawgs appeared to have it lost when an illegal receiver downfield call on the rollout TD pass play pushed them out of the end zone, and the penalty yardage and a loss of 3 yards on the next play pushed them out of even Kharchenko’s formidable field goal range on the wet afternoon.

But on third and 26, Jund hooked up with WR Nate Simkins for a 17-yard gain that set up Kharchenko’s subsequent 41-yard threepointer to send the game to a second OT—where Jund hit WR Jake Messerly on a slant for a 10-yard TD pass, only to be followed a few minutes later by a one-yard keeper into the end zone by EOU QB Kai Quinn to knot the score again.

All had appeared lost for the Dawgs on the final play of regulation—a flop wedge shot field goal attempt by EOU’s Harden, who hit all four of his other FG attempts in the game, all from much further out. But the football careened off the outside of the left upright, sending the game to OT.

Less than a minute earlier, the Dawgs had seemed about to win.LB Riley Martello (who led the UMW defense with 15 tackles) recovered a Mountaineer fumble near midfield. And then the Bulldogs quickly drove into the EOU red zone, but fumbled, forfeiting their own chance at a short, fourth-quarter FG winner.

That the Dawgs even got into position for their late heartbreaks demonstrated just how much heart they showed on Saturday.

“I know we fell short of our final objective of winning, but that was the greatest comeback I’ve ever been involved with,” said Nourse of his team’s late blitzkrieg back from oblivion.

“To have a young team not fold, and come back and keep battling and battling was awesome,” said Nourse of his Bulldogs, who start freshman at many key positions.

“Our guys fought back when they were way down and it seemed like maybe the odds were insurmountable.”

Down 28 points in the fourth quarter, Western scored four unanswered TDs—the last on a 53-yard pass down the middle of the field from Jund to McKitrick that knotted the score, 41-41, with just 2:43 remaining.

The first of those four, fourthquarter TDs came when Jund found McKitrick in the back of the end zone from 15 yards out to complete a quick-strike drive that covered 83 yards in just a half-dozen plays.

The middle two TDs came in the course of just over a minute and four plays from scrimmage—all snapped by EOU. Bulldog DB Damaen Bentley snared his second interception of the game and raced 28 yards for a touchdown to cut the Dawgs’ disadvantage to 14.

And then three plays into the next Mountaineer drive, UMW LB Joe Caciedo halved that deficit by forcing and then returning an EOU fumble 36 yards to the house.

And those are just the highlights from the fourth quarter and overtimes... or some of them.

Though, to be fair, just about all the highlights for the first three quarters belonged to the Mountaineers.

EOU scored all of the opening quarter’s 13 points, 3 of them on a short field goal set up by Lacey’s block of a UMW punt.

While UMW got 13 points of their own, the Mountaineers scored four TDs across the second and third quarters, including one on a 97-yard hookup between Quinn and Brenden Kelly that followed a Dawg fumble just short of the EOU goal line and seemed to seal the notion that this just wasn’t going to be Montana Western’s day.

But the Dawgs didn’t need all day, just an astonishing fourth quarter to counter all that.

Despite getting pounded for 7 sacks in the game behind his young offensive line and trailing, 41-13, early in the final quarter, freshman QB Jund (390 yards and 4 TDs passing) rebounded and began regularly hitting Simkins (7 catches for 114 yards) and McKitrick, who enjoyed a college career day (10 catches for 162 yards and 3 TDs) in his increasingly impressive college career.

“Walker McItrick has earned everything he’s gotten,” said Nourse of the redshirt junior wide receiver out of Ennis High School.

“He gets a lot done using everything he’s got.”

And the Dawg defense, despite yielding huge days to Quinn (466 yards and 4 TDs passing), Kelly (10 catches, 265 receiving yards) and EOU RB Victor Dias (120 yards rushing) came up huger with those two TDs of its own in the fourth quarter.

“Our guys just battled—making big play after big play, and then dumb play after dumb play, and then big play after big play,” said Nourse, who gave specific kudos to Bentley for his big, smart plays on Saturday.

“Damien Bentley came in at corner against one of best receiving corps in country and got two interceptions,” said Nourse of the redshirt freshman.

“He really stepped up for team. We’re really excited to see what he does going forward with his opportunity.”

Next up for the Dawgs, a week off from competitive play, during which they will prepare for a 1 p.m. Oct. 6 visit to Vigilante Field in Dillon from old friend Montana Tech (3-1) for the Bulldogs’ 2018 Homecoming Game.

DAWG BYTES

**The 54 points yielded by the Dawg defense at Eastern Oregon on Saturday represented 20 more points than UMW had given up in its first three games of the 2018 season. Even without the three overtimes of added scoring opportunities, EOU still managed to outpoint all of Montana Western’s other opponents combined this season by a touchdown.

**Each of EOU’s last two games (the one last Saturday against Montana Western and the one two weeks before against Montana Tech) featured 9 turnovers.

Eastern Oregon 54, Western 51

First Quarter

EOU – Nathan Harden 45-yd FG 9:16 EOU – Harden 28-yd FG 5:09

EOU – Kai Quinn 21-yd TD pass to Phoenix Millhollen (Harden PAT) 1:07

Second Quarter

UMW – Mark Kharchenko 22-yd FG 10:28

UMW – Kharchenko 33-yd FG 9:31

EOU – Quinn 7-yd TD pass to Gabe Giacci (Harden PAT) 7:59

EOU – Quinn 97-yd TD pass to Brendan Kelly (Harden PAT) 2:10

Third Quarter

UMW – Jon Jund 11-yd TD pass to Walker McKItrick (Kharchenko PAT) 10:47

EOU – Victor Dias 7-yd TD run (Harden PAT) 3:37

EOU – Quinn 19-yd TD pass to TJ Hancock (Harden PAT) 0:32

Fourth Quarter

UMW – Jund 15-yd TD pass to Walker McKItrick (Kharchenko PAT) 10:45 UMW – Damien Bentley 27-yd interception return for TD (Kharchenko PAT) 10:26

UMW – Joe Caciedo 36-yd fumble return for TD (Kharchenko PAT) 9:36 UMW – Jund 53-yd TD pass to Walker McKItrick (Kharchenko PAT) 2:17

Overtimes

EOU – Harden 34-yd FG

UMW – Kharchenko 41-yd FG

UWM – Jund 10-yd TD pass to Jake Messerly (Kharchenko PAT)

EOU – Quinn 1-yd TD run (Harden PAT) EOU – Harden 39-yd FG

Team Stats

UMW EOU First downs 21 27 Rushes-yds (net) 41-53 42-127 Passing yds (net) 390 466 Pass Comp-Att-Int 28-45-1 31-61-2 Total off plays-yds 86-443 103-593 INT returns-yds 2-27 1-0 Fumbles-lost 5-3 4-3 Punts-yds 9-357 7-315 Punt returns-yds 5-34 7-32 Kick returns-yd 6-108 8-80 Penalties-yds 10-80 8-82

UMW Individual Stats

Rushing (att.–yds) – Kylar Prante 21-68, Jon Jund 15-43, Trey Mounts 2-10, Jake Messerly 1-5, Nolan Donisthorpe 1-0, Team 1-0.

Passing (comp.-att.-INT-yds) – Jund 28-45-1-390.

Receiving – Walker McKitrick 10-162, Nate Simkins 7-114, Messerly 4-58, Prante 4-46, Blake Sentman 3-10.

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